To the Editor:
I am writing in response to your Jan. 7th front page headline, “Cellphone sting catches two suspected hookers” As journalists, you shouldn’t need to be reminded that even the closest synonyms have varying connotations. You must be conscious of the ability of language to influence public perception. Furthermore, I’m assuming you are aware that reinforcing negative opinions about an already marginalized group enhances the stigma surrounding it. Did you also know that there is a direct correlation between the stigma placed on sex workers and the violence faced by sex workers?
Studies show that when sex workers are increasingly portrayed as problems, they face a greater incidence of assault. Calling the women in your article hookers categorizes them as a public nuisance without addressing the myriad social problems affecting sex workers. Due to the illegality of sex work, it is difficult to gather data, but the data we do have shows that sex workers have little recourse if they are assaulted or raped, though they are at a higher risk for both. They are also at a higher risk of contracting STDs, including HIV, and they frequently lack access to healthcare. Minority sex workers are more likely to be profiled and arrested. They, along with trans sex workers, are also more likely to be targets of violence.
Making the arrests of two sex workers front page news and then proceeding to name them while giving the police officers involved in the sting operation anonymity shows bias. The arrests of these women and their subsequent public shaming won’t help them. Writing more articles that highlight the social problems faced by the sex work community might.